To fast is simply to abstain from food for a meal or a day or longer. In many faith traditions, fasting is a deeply spiritual time where one’s usual practice of eating is replaced by prayer. Historian Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., says,
The spiritual reasons for fasting have been pretty much lost on today’s society. Many United Methodists are surprised to learn that John Wesley fasted two days a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, in his younger days. Later he fasted on Fridays.
“Wesley was convinced that fasting, abstaining from food or drink, was a practice firmly grounded in the Bible. People in Old Testament times fasted (Ezra 8:23). So did Jesus and his followers (Matthew 4:2; Acts 13:3), and Wesley saw no reason why modern Christians should not follow the same pattern. His plan of fasting sometimes allowed for limited eating and drinking. He found that fasting advanced holiness.”†
Fasting is not always about food. In our modern world, we have many things which we might consider part of our 'daily bread' that we could choose to give up in order to make more time for reflection and prayer. Could a day without social media be a good substitute? How about choosing to forego that cup of boutique designer coffee?
Fasting is not necessarily an easy practice! John Wesley is oft-quoted for saying, “Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.” The pairing of the spiritual and the temporal is a way to connect the whole person, using the time away from food, or whatever you're fasting, as a time in prayer.
†John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life ©1996 Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., p.33 (Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., is General Secretary Emeritus of the General Commission on Archives & History, United Methodist Church.)
Prayer is our connection with God, an ongoing conversation with God in which we seek to balance our listening with our speaking. Some call prayer a “life line, others “life support.” Prayer cannot be used as a way to control others. Prayer is far more apt to change us than another person! So we pray for hungry people, trusting that God will show us the way to address that hunger.
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue that God uses to transform us…. In prayer we learn to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to do the things He wills.” RICHARD FOSTER – CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINES.
Praying for others is called intercessory prayer, and it only makes up part of what can be a verbose dialogue with God. There is no right or wrong thing you can say or think. Just address your thoughts to God and open your heart.
Prayer is not an Olympic sport. Don't let the false assumption that you have to be good at praying stop you. Tell God what you are feeling. If you're short on words, maybe try some you already know. Recite the Lord's Prayer, but when you come to the part about daily bread think about how the "us" is everyone and "our" is enough to fill everyone who hungers for both spiritual and physical food.John Wesley said, “God’s command to ‘pray without ceasing’ is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it than the body can without air. Whether we think of or speak to God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him. Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding is employed on outward things. In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.”
From A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as believed and taught by the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725 to the year 1777.
If you look at the origins of the word generous (In ENGLISH) you’ll find that prior to the 18th century it meant you were of noble birth or of ideal character. We don’t know why, but at some point, the meaning shifted to describe a person who gave money or possessions to people who were in need.
Jesus worked hard to share this value system through parables like the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son (Luke Chapter 14). Jesus also directly told his disciples, while standing in the temple, that giving from abundance means far less than we think.
Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.
Everything we have comes from God and belongs to God, and not just the leftovers. We can hear this guidance to change our behavior in two ways. First, give in response to a need, and not in response to our capacity to give. Second, give regardless of the size of the gift, no gift given from a call for compassion is too small.
Too often we erroneously consider generous as giving a large or significant sum of money or something of high value. Measuring generosity is an errand that can take considerable resources itself for little gain. If generosity is really about making an impact on the life of the recipient then the measurement should lie within the realm of impact as well. The physical size of the gift is unimportant.
John Wesley liked to call the things we do to bring about Grace, "The Means of Grace." Grace is as impactful as it is important. It’s a topic that is as deep as the oceans’ trenches to as tall as the farthest star we can see in the night sky. The idea of Grace has dimension and depth, which stretches human understanding as a concept.
So here is how we explain it: Grace is a gift that God gives that we may or may not know we want. It can, at times, be alternatively described as salvation, blessings, or good favor. Grace is unearned and free. It is a tangible thing with intangible results.
When we engage in spiritual practices that bring us closer to God we are surrounded by opportunities to receive and share God's grace. To a hungry person that might be restorative to their hope, health, or well being. We make grace, as an act of love, so that we can give it away.
Learn more about Wesley's Means of Grace in our study guide FastPrayGive: Ending Hunger By The Means Of Grace